Posts Tagged ‘Warrensburg’

Monday, July 12, 2010

Floyd Bennett: A Local Aviation Legend

Among the rock-star personas of the Roaring Twenties were a number of aviators who captured the public’s imagination. Some were as popular and beloved as movie stars and famous athletes, and America followed their every move. It was a time of “firsts” in the world of aviation, led by names like Lindbergh, Byrd, and Post. Among their number was an unusually humble man, Floyd Bennett. He may have been the best of the lot.

A North Country native and legendary pilot, Bennett has been claimed at times by three different villages as their own. He was born in October 1890 at the southern tip of Lake George in Caldwell (which today is Lake George village). Most of his youth was spent living on the farm of his aunt and uncle in Warrensburg. He also worked for three years in Ticonderoga, where he made many friends. Throughout his life, Floyd maintained ties to all three villages.

In the early 1900s, cars and gasoline-powered engines represented the latest technology. Floyd’s strong interest led him to automobile school, after which he toiled as a mechanic in Ticonderoga for three years. When the United States entered World War I, Bennett, 27, enlisted in the Navy.

While becoming an aviation mechanic, Floyd discovered his aptitude for the pilot’s seat. He attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, where one of his classmates was Richard E. Byrd, future legendary explorer. For several years, Bennett refined his flying skills, and in 1925, he was selected for duty in Greenland under Lieutenant Byrd.

Fraught with danger and the unknown, the mission sought to learn more about the vast unexplored area of the Arctic Circle. Bennett’s knowledge and hard work were critical to the success of the mission, and, as Byrd would later confirm, the pair almost certainly would have died but for Bennett’s bravery in a moment of crisis.

While flying over extremely rough territory, the plane’s oil gauge suddenly climbed. Had the pressure risen unchecked, an explosion was almost certain. Byrd looked at Bennett, seeking a course of action, and both then turned their attention to the terrain below.

Within seconds, reality set in—there was no possibility of landing. With that, Bennett climbed out onto the plane’s wing in frigid conditions and loosened the oil cap, relieving the pressure. He suffered frostbite in the process, but left no doubt in Byrd’s mind that, in selecting Bennett, he had made the right choice.

The two men became fast friends, and when the intrepid Byrd planned a historic flight to the North Pole, Bennett was asked to serve as both pilot and mechanic on the Josephine Ford. (Edsel Ford provided financial backing for the effort, and the plane was named after his daughter.) In 1926, Byrd and Bennett attained legendary status by completing the mission despite bad luck and perilous conditions. The flight rocketed them to superstardom.

Lauded as national heroes, they were suddenly in great demand, beginning with a tickertape parade in New York City. Byrd enjoyed the limelight, but also heaped praise on the unassuming Bennett, assuring all that the attempt would never have been made without his trusted partner. When Bennett visited Lake George, more than two thousand supporters gathered in the tiny village to welcome him. As part of the ceremony, letters of praise from Governor Smith and President Coolidge were read to the crowd.

Both men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for any member of the armed services, and rarely bestowed for non-military accomplishments. They were also honored with gold medals from the National Geographic Society. Despite all the attention and lavish praise, Bennett remained unchanged, to the surprise of no one.

The next challenge for the team of Bennett and Byrd was the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, a trip they prepared for eagerly. But in a training crash, both men were hurt. Bennett’s injuries were serious, and before the pair could recover and continue the pursuit of their goal, Charles Lindbergh accomplished the historic feat. Once healed, the duo completed the flight to Europe six weeks later.

Seeking new horizons to conquer, aviation’s most famous team planned an expedition to the South Pole. Tremendous preparation was required, including testing of innovative equipment. On March 13, 1928, a curious crowd gathered on the shores of Lake Champlain near Ticonderoga. Airplanes were still a novelty then, and two craft were seen circling overhead. Finally, one of them put down on the slushy, ice-covered lake surface, skiing to a halt.

Out came local hero Floyd Bennett, quickly engulfed by a crowd of friends and well-wishers. While in Staten Island preparing for the South Pole flight, he needed to test new skis for landing capabilities in the snow. What better place to do it than among friends? After performing several test landings on Lake Champlain, Bennett stayed overnight in Ticonderoga. Whether at the Elks Club, a restaurant, or a local hotel, he and his companions were invariably treated like royalty. Bennett repeatedly expressed his thanks and appreciation for such a warm welcome.

A month later, while making further preparations for the next adventure, Floyd became ill with what was believed to be a cold. When word arrived that help was urgently needed on a rescue mission, the response was predictable. Ignoring his own health, Bennett immediately went to the assistance of a German and Irish team that had crossed the Atlantic but crashed their craft, the Bremen, on Greenly Island north of Newfoundland, Canada.

During the mission, Floyd developed a high fever but still tried to continue the rescue effort. His condition worsened, requiring hospitalization in Quebec City, where doctors found he was gravely ill with pneumonia. Richard Byrd and Floyd’s wife, Cora, who was also ill, flew north to be with him. Despite the best efforts of physicians, Bennett, just 38 years old, succumbed on April 25, 1928, barely a month after his uplifting visit to Ticonderoga.

Though Bennett died, the rescue mission he had begun proved successful. Across Canada, Germany, Ireland, and the United States, headlines mourned the loss of a hero who had given his life while trying to save others. Explorers, adventurers, and aviators praised Bennett as a man of grace, intelligence, bravery, and unfailing integrity.

Floyd Bennett was already considered a hero long before the rescue attempt. The selflessness he displayed further enhanced his image, and as the nation mourned, his greatness was honored with a heavily attended military funeral in Washington, followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Among the pile of wreaths on his grave was one from President and Mrs. Coolidge.

After the loss of his partner and best friend, Richard Byrd’s craft for the ultimately successful flight to the South Pole was a tri-motor Ford renamed the Floyd Bennett. Both the man and the plane of the same name are an important part of American aviation history.

It was eventually calculated that the earlier flight to the North Pole may not have reached its destination, but the news did nothing to diminish Byrd and Bennett’s achievements. They received many honors for their spectacular adventures. On June 26, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held in Brooklyn for New York City’s first-ever municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field. It was regarded at the time as America’s finest airfield.

Many historic flights originated or ended at Floyd Bennett Field, including trips by such notables as Howard Hughes, Jimmy Doolittle, Wiley Post, Douglas “Wrongway” Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart. It was also the busiest airfield in the United States during World War II, vital to the Allied victory. Floyd Bennett Field is now protected by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

The beloved Bennett was also honored in several other venues. In the 1940s, a Navy Destroyer, the USS Bennett, was named in honor of his legacy as a flight pioneer. In the village of Warrensburg, New York, a memorial bandstand was erected in Bennett’s honor. Sixteen miles southeast of Warrensburg, and a few miles from Glens Falls, is Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

In a speech made after the North Pole flight, Richard Byrd said, “I would rather have had Floyd Bennett with me than any man I know of.” High praise indeed between heroes and friends. And not bad for a regular guy from Lake George, Warrensburg, and Ticonderoga.

Top Photo: The Josephine Ford.

Middle Photo: Floyd Bennett, right, receives medal from President Coolidge. Richard Byrd is to the left of Coolidge.

Bottom Photo: Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport.

Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gates to Remain Closed at Hudson River Recreation Area

Saying the agency was “acting to protect natural resources and to curtail illegal and unsafe activities,” the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced it has relocated six campsites closer to main roads and will not reopen the gates at the Hudson River Special Management Area (HRSMA) of the Lake George Wild Forest. The gates, only recently installed to limit the area’s roads during spring mud season, will remain closed until further notice. “Unfortunately, due to funding reductions resulting from the state’s historic budget shortfall, DEC is, as previously announced, unable to maintain many of the roads in HRSMA and must keep the gates closed until the budget situation changes,” a DEC statement said.

Also known as the “Hudson River Rec Area” or the “Buttermilk Area,” the HRSMA is a 5,500-acre section of forest preserve located on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, straddling the boundary of the towns of Lake Luzerne and Warrensburg in Warren County. Designated “Wild Forest” under the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, HRSMA is a popular location for camping, swimming, picnicking, boating, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, hunting and fishing. The Hudson River Rec Area has been a popular spot for late-night parties, littering, and other abuses.

Six campsites (# 6-11) have been relocated due to vandalism and overuse. Campsites #6, 7, 8, and 10 and 11 are relocated in the vicinity of the old sites and just a short walk from the parking areas. Parking for each of these sites is provided off Buttermilk Road. Site 9 has been relocated to the Bear Slide Access Road providing an additional accessible campsite in the HRSMA for visitors with mobility disabilities. Site 11 is located off Gay Pond Road, which is currently closed to motor vehicle traffic.

Signs have been posted identifying parking locations for the sites and markers have been hung to direct campers to the new campsite locations. Camping is permitted at designated sites only – which are marked with “Camp Here” disks.

Gay Pond Road (3.8 mi.) and Buttermilk Road Extension (2.1 mi.) are temporarily closed to all public motor vehicle access. Pikes Beach Access Road (0.3 mi.) and Scofield Flats Access Road (0.1 mi.) may still be accessed by motor vehicle by people with disabilities holding CP3 permits. As in the past, the Bear Slides Access Road and Darlings Ford are closed to motor vehicle use by the general public but will remain open for non-motorized access by the general public and motorized access by people with disabilities holding a CP-3 permit.

Currently eight campsites designed and managed for accessibility remain available to people with mobility disabilities. All of the designated sites are available to visitors who park in the designated parking areas and arrive by foot or arrive by canoe.

DEC Forest Rangers will continue to educate users, enforce violations of the law, ensure the proper and safe use of the area, and remind visitors that:

* Camping and fires are permitted at designated sites only;

* Cutting of standing trees, dead or alive, is prohibited;

* Motor vehicles are only permitted on open roads and at designated parking areas;

* “Pack it in, pack it out” – take all garbage and possessions with you when you leave; and

* A permit is required from the DEC Forest Ranger if you are camping more than 3 nights or have 10 or more people in your group.

Additional information, and a map of the Hudson River Special Management Area, may be found on the DEC website.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Marcus Granger: Warren County Fiddler, Poet, Hotelman

Not long after my father purchased the Warrensburg News and its old printing plant in 1958, he found in a box of papers a small booklet entitled “Guide to Schroon Lake and Vicinity,” with Marcus E. Granger listed as the author.

The booklet had been printed in the shop eighty years earlier. Although numerous guidebooks to the Adirondacks had been published before Granger’s, his was unique in two respects. His was probably the first guidebook devoted to Schroon Lake. Dr. Durant’s Adirondack Railroad had been completed in 1872, and the station at Riverside, or Riparius, brought Schroon Lake within reach of tourists for the first time. Second, and even more remarkable, was the fact that it was written entirely in heroic couplets. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cooperative Extension Offers Veggie, Herb Seed Starter Kits

Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County is offering affordable vegetable and herb seed starter kits for the 2010 garden season beginning Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Each kit includes five different seed packs, growing directions, and garden row markers. The vegetable kits also include the Cooperative Extension’s “2010 Booklet on Vegetable Varieties.” The herb kits include information on starting a container herb garden. Each seed kit is only $5 (only $9 if you buy both).

Each VEGETABLE seed kit includes: Five different vegetable seed packs, full growing directions for each seed type, garden row markers and the newest The vegetable seed kit includes ‘tendergreen’ beans, cucumber, lettuce, squash and tomato seed packs.

The HERB seed kits include five different herb seed packs, growing directions, garden row markers and other information about starting a container HERB garden. The herb seed kit includes sweet basil, dill, green scallion onion, parsley and nastursium (nastursium produces beautiful edible salad flowers!).

Proceeds from the sale of the Seed Starter Kits will be used by the Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H (Youth Development Program) and the Master Gardener Volunteer (Consumer Horticulture Education Program) to help support the many 4-H youth programs in Warren County and the Master Gardener Volunteer programs that provide science-based gardening information to people in our community.

The seed kits are available begining February 16 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Warrensburg, at 377 Schroon River Road, Warrensburg, NY 12885. The office is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Tel.: 518-623-3291.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas 1969: The View from Warrensburg

By the end of 1969, more than forty thousand American soldiers had been killed in the war in Vietnam. Despite Richard Nixon’s pledge in 1968 that his election would bring “peace with honor,” and after a year of peace talks in Paris, it was clear that the killing would continue. That’s the background of this editorial that my father, Rob Hall, wrote and published in his Warrensburg-Lake George News in December, 1969. On this Christmas, with wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, I thought it might find resonance with Adirondack Almanack readers.

Our dream went like this:

It was my first full day in heaven and the day-room orderly told me that the Archangel Michael wanted to see me. I found him behind a golden desk in his office. “The Chief suggested that in view of your long career as a newspaperman you might like to publish a little weekly newspaper for us up here,” he said.

“I suppose it would occupy my time for me,” I said. “What shall we name it? The Heavenly Tidings, perhaps?”

He said any name would do and I remarked that I’d need a staff of two or three. I named several newspapermen I had known who had recently passed over the Great Divide. “Nope,” said the Archangel, looking over the big book on his desk, “they’re not registered HERE.”

“Well,” I said, “could you spare me an angel?”

“I should think so,” said Michael, “but will yours be a good news newspaper or a bad news newspaper?”

“Is there any bad news up here?” I asked.

“Only the tidings of wickedness from down below,” he said, “but we like to keep informed.”

In that case, I said, the Heavenly Tidings would be a mixture of both. “But what about my angel?”

“I can let you have Gabriella,” Michael said. “She’s a sister to Gabriel but as much the opposite as any sibling you’ve ever known. Gabriel is the one with the trumpet which he will blow on Doomsday. But Gabriella is so constituted that she is incapable of bringing anything but good news. If it’s bad news, forget it. She absolutely won’t handle it.”

“How odd,” I commented, and noticed that Michael seemed disposed to continue the conversation. He leaned back in his golden chair and adjusted his wings to the apertures in the backrest.

“It was a long time ago that we first became aware of Gabriella’s hang-up,” he said. “It was about this time of year and we had word from the Chief to keep an eye on the road from Galilee to Bethlehem. I gave Gabriella the assignment and thought no more of it until I came into the observation post and found her in tears.”

“I can’t do it. I can’t do it,” she sobbed. And when I asked her what was the matter, she said:

“Why that poor woman down there, riding that little donkey. And the kind old man with her. They are on their way to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. Not only are their taxes out of this world, there’s no inn that will give them a bed. I just can’t make out my report. Every time I try to write, the tears get in my eyes and I can’t see to write.”

“I told her that it was her duty to report the bad along with the good, but it didn’t seem to matter. She just kept crying like her heart would break.”

I peeked through the observation window and I said, “Look, Gabriella, they’ve got a place in that inn.”

“Yes, but look at the accommodations,” she said. “Just a pile of straw in the barn.”

“Now Gabriella,” I said. “People who love each other can be happy under the most adverse circumstances.”

“But she’s going to have a baby,” said Gabriella. “And there’s not even a midwife around to help. Oh, this is terrible.”

I really couldn’t figure out any way to comfort Gabriella, but I noticed a beautiful bright star moving toward Bethlehem.

“Take a look at the star, Gabriella,” I said. “That surely means something.”

“How beautiful,” said Gabriella, and she smiled through her tears. “And look, it’s stopped right over the barn where those poor people are staying.”

The intercom bell rang for me and I knew it was the Chief.

“It’s come,” the Chief said. “I have a Son. Send down an angel and some heavenly hosts, the ones with the most beautiful voices. This is not an occasion to be minimized.”

I started to ask where, but the star gave me the answer. “Gabriella,” I said, “there’s great, good news, tidings of real joy. Get down to that barn right away, and I’ll send you some help. Are you in good voice?”

“You can bet I am,” said Gabriella, and she laughed joyfully, because she had got the message.

“On your way,” I said and patted her on the back. And with that Gabriella opened her wings and swooped down.

She was the first one there, and I tuned in to hear her song.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to men.”

Gabriella was happy when she returned to headquarters. “A beautiful baby lying in a manger,” she said. “Oh the good news that I’ll be reporting from now on.”

“And,” said Michael, “that has been her assignment ever since.”

I told Michael I understood, and that Gabriella would be assistant editor in charge of good news. I said I’d try to handle the bad news myself.

“And speaking of bad news,” I said to Michael, “what’s going on with Vietnam?”

“One of these days, that will be a proper assignment for Gabriella,” Michael said, “but not, repeat not, in this week’s issue.”

For news and commentary from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror. Visit the paper online at http://lakegeorgemirror.com


Friday, September 25, 2009

Hickory Ski Center and Big Tupper on Track to Open

Adirondackers will have two new old places to ski this winter. Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg will hold a volunteer work day Saturday to get the hill in shape for its re-opening. Another group of volunteers is trying to get a chairlift running again for skiing at Big Tupper, in Tupper Lake.

Hickory Hill has been closed for four years, so it won’t need an Adirondack Park Agency permit to resume business; however, Big Tupper has not been operational for more than five years, so it will need approval from the state land use agency.

“Everything seems to be falling into place,” Hickory president Bill Van Pelt said this week. A previous volunteer work day on Sept. 12 attracted about 30 people, who repainted buildings, tuned lifts, drilled a new well and created a new drop-off area, he said. Hickory’s new owners, a group of mostly local shareholders, are also pursuing snowmaking, he said, and they expect to have at least a partial system in place this year, but details are still being worked out.

Ticketing will be electronic, Van Pelt said, so when a skier passes through an archway to get on a lift, sensors will keep a tally of how many vertical feet the person has skied this season. Ticket prices are now available here.

To volunteer at Hickory Saturday contact operations manager Shawn Dempsey at skihickory@gmail.com. Dempsey advises: plan to come prepared with a lunch, hiking boots, gloves and any brush-clearing equipment, shovels, rakes.

Van Pelt said Hickory’s opening date will depend on snow and snowmaking. In Tupper Lake, volunteer organizer Jim LaValley said Big Tupper’s opening date is set for December 26. The mountain will go without snowmaking for now, LaValley said, but he’s optimistic about the forecast. “It’s going to be a good year because you’ve got El Nino spinning and the sunspot cycle has made its shift.”

APA staff made a site visit Wednesday, and LaValley said he expects to receive the operating permit by November or December. Volunteers are working continuously on getting a chairlift ready for inspection, improving the base lodge and electrical systems. There will be a call for a volunteer work day in the next few weeks, LaValley said, but in the meantime people who wish to pitch in can contact him at jim.lavalley@lavalleyrealestate.com or (518) 359-9440. Ticket prices have not yet been set. For future information a Web site is being developed at skibigtupper.org.

You can read more about Hickory’s and Big Tupper’s years of limbo here.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cornell Offers Green Jobs Forum in Warrensburg

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County is working with Cornell University and the Workforce Development Institute of New York to host a Green Jobs forum on Thursday, June 25, 10:00am to Noon. The forum will be broadcast to Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations located in 14 counties across New York State via Cornell’s distance learning network. The forum is free and open to the public. Information on the following topics and issues will be addressed:

* what is meant by the term “green jobs”
* where and in what sectors of the economy do they exist
* information on available training programs
* what does the future look like for the “green jobs sector”

General information about the workforce development institute and information about what services are available to the public will also be discussed.

The Green Jobs Forum will also provide information on starting a home performance / home energy audit business. New York State currently has training programs in place and some financial incentives available to entrepreneurs and home improvement contracting firms that want to expand into the home energy audit field.

Seating for the Green Jobs Forum is limited so if you are interested in attending, please phone Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County at 668-4881 or 623-3291 to reserve a seat.


Monday, March 23, 2009

A New Ski Business Plan for Hickory

While negotiations continue over Big Tupper Ski Area, whose reopening hinges on a 625-lot residential development, a different group of investors is pursuing a condo-free strategy to resurrect Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg.

“My initial interest in Hickory was in its history (founded by a WWII member of the 10th Mountain Division) and reputation as a challenging hill (notwithstanding its small size),” Bill Van Pelt IV said in an e-mail.

Van Pelt, a financial planner from Saratoga now living in Texas, is leading several shareholders and Hickory board members in trying to come up with a new business plan for the old-school mountain, which has 1,200 feet of vertical drop, 17 trails, two Poma lifts, a T-bar and a rope tow.

Operating private ski areas has proven a challenge in the Adirondacks, so the group is trying to come up with a viable game plan.

“Mad River Glen provides an example with which I am personally familiar,” Van Pelt wrote. “I made an early, conscious effort not to tackle the problem with real estate development as a component of the plan. That reflects my personal preference (I don’t like golf courses with houses on them either) and, coincidently, the culture of Hickory and its board.”

Mad River Glen, in Waitsfield, Vermont, is proudly skier-owned and natural — no snowmaking. [Post-deadline correction: there is a modest system with two guns that supplments a fraction of the terrain.] Shareholders are trying to decide whether they should leave Hickory’s snow cover to nature or modernize with a snowmaking system and a chairlift.

Either way, Van Pelt told the Glens Falls Post-Star that the mountain will reopen next season after several years in limbo. He and other board members are receiving enthusiastic e-mails from former Hickory skiers and soliciting their suggestions via skihickory@mccltd.com.

The only other privately owned ski area still running in the Adirondack Park, Royal Mountain in Caroga Lake, hosts motocross races in summer to make ends meet. Big Tupper Ski Area, in Tupper Lake, has been closed for a decade; a consortium of Philadelphia-based investors proposes to make skiing the centerpiece of a vast high-end development and say the slope is otherwise not financially sustainable. Oak Mountain recently went into bankruptcy but was run this winter by the village of Speculator.

Map from New England Lost Ski Areas Project.


Friday, October 21, 2005

More Tops Supermarkets in the Adirondacks Sold

Tops has sold a few more stores to it’s suppliers [report].

C&S Wholesale Grocers of Keene, N.H., has agreed to buy the two Tops Markets stores in Saranac Lake and the stores in Elizabethtown, Bolton Landing, AuSable Forks, Schroon Lake, Peru, North Creek, Corinth, Warrensburg and Chestertown.

Now we can only hope they actually do something worthwhile with these stores instead of just using them to exploit locals without other supermarket options.



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